SYRIA – “Hoping that the ceasefire will be the beginning of the end of the war”
A representative of the Syriac Orthodox church in Syria has expressed his hopes that the current ceasefire will be the beginning of the end of the war in Syria. When asked about the temporary end of hostilities that took effect on 27 February in an interview with the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), Archbishop Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh of Homs and Hama said, “We pray to the Lord God to put his hand in every good work, and the ceasefire process is good work, especially after such a long period of war. And ask the Lord to bless this step, and pray it will be the beginning of the end of the war in our beloved Syria.”
While talking with Aid to the Church in Need, Archbishop Selwanos expressed his joy over the recent release of Christian hostages from captivity by the Islamist terror militia Islamic State. On 22 February Islamic State released the last 43 hostages from an initial group of 253 Christians who were captured one year ago when Islamic State advanced through the Khabur region of northeastern Syria. At the time, around 3,000 Christians were forced to flee their villages in the face of the jihadists’ onslaught.
“There is no doubt,” Archbishop Selwanos said, “that the thing that happened with the hostages may enter the joy of all Christians, and has increased the belief that God still works miracles in difficult times, and that the Lord responds to the prayers of the good people.”
Meanwhile, Islamic State still has more than 170 Christian captives from the Syrian town of Al-Qaryatayn, which was conquered by the terror militia in August of 2015. The jihadists followed this with the destruction of Mar Elian, a 1,500-year-old monastery.
According to Archbishop Selwanos, Syria’s Christians continue to live in fear of the Islamic State and other jihadist groups even after the release of the hostages from the Khabur region. “Christians lived fear of Daash (Arabic term for Islamic State) and jihadists in the previous period, and are still so far. But this fear is hope that ends soon, especially as the Christian loves peace and seeks peace by all means.”
Aid to the Church in Need supports the humanitarian work of Archbishop Selwanos. Since the outbreak of war in Syria, ACN has donated a total of more than 11 million euros to its local church project partners for pastoral and humanitarian aid. The aid work is primarily focused on supporting the many internally displaced persons.